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Q&A:
Alan White, Senior Associate Dean Emeritus

Alan White, Senior Associate Dean Emeritus

You graduated from the Sloan Fellows Program in 1971.
What is your favorite memory from your time as a student?

I lived in Lexington during my time in the Sloan Fellows Program, and a group of us commuted to the School together. My favorite memory was something we dreamed up during those car rides—an informal dinner series with faculty.

The four of us would invite a faculty member to dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, and our goal was to get to know them as people, understanding their personal and professional lives. Among the faculty we dined with were Ed Schein, Dick Robinson, Dave Kolb, and Tom Magnanti.

Not too long after graduating, you returned to join the administrative team of the School. What made you come back?

Two years after graduation, Bill Pounds asked me to return to MIT Sloan. I thought it would be a good move for one year; I doubted that I’d be there longer than one year... .

Many things kept me here, but there are three specific ones: the environment, the opportunity, and the people. The working environment at the School was a big surprise to me. If you worked hard and did your work well, you were granted tremendous freedom to create, lead, and innovate.

MIT Sloan offers a continuous opportunity to learn and grow. Over the course of my time here, I have held many different roles—senior associate dean, MIT faculty member, senior lecturer, Sloan Fellows Program director, director of placement, and director of admissions. Finally, my colleagues were, and are, extraordinary.

As a member of our alumni community, a member of the School’s faculty, and our longest-serving administrator, you see the School through many lenses. How has our School evolved?

When I began at MIT Sloan, the School was somewhat unknown. It was a very relaxed place, and the administrative staff was quite small. The size of the community made it possible to know everyone, and those years were special.

I can remember deans’ meetings when all we discussed were what books we were reading or what movies we had seen! Over my time here, management education has become increasingly competitive, and our operations have needed to expand in order to meet our mission. That growth has changed the way we operate and, to some extent, the level of community connection. However, that growth has also expanded our ability to have a positive impact on the world. The accomplishments of yesterday and the promise for tomorrow are a great source of pride.

What qualities of community have remained constant?

MIT is a place that respects individuals. Faculty and staff treat one another with care and concern. Openness and fairness are values, and those who place merit in status and hierarchy would not be comfortable at MIT Sloan.

Another constant feature has been the exceptional contributions by very different deans. I’ve had the pleasure of working closely with most of the deans, starting with Bill Pounds. Bill and all of his successors have made distinctive contributions to the development of the School, and all have been very successful. Not all organizations can make that statement!

In 2014, we will celebrate the 100th anniversary of Course XV. What makes you excited for the future of the MIT Sloan School of Management?

The 100th anniversary of management education at MIT gives us an opportunity to better understand and feature how our alumni and members of our community have made positive and significant contributions to society. Looking back, a clear pattern emerges—as the School has grown and developed, our global impact has broadened. The world needs greater expertise to bring to bear on society’s greatest challenges; we have been, and will continue to be, primary contributors. Our best days are ahead of us!